Thursday, January 13, 2011

Waking Sleeping Beauty

I think most of you that read this blog are already aware that I've started a sketch diary where I am drawing a new sketch every day in an effort to improve my skills. But for the few who may not, please feel free to check it out if you wish. I mentioned over there that I watched Waking Sleeping Beauty last night. Since this movie is slightly flying under the radar, I thought it deserved a full post here.

The documentary uses old home movies and various stock footage along with audio interviews to tell the story of Walt Disney Animation from 1980 until 1994. As someone who grew up during this time period and has lots of memories about the films made during that era, both good and bad, I found it fascinating.

In the beginning I thought it was a little hard to follow. They toss a lot of names and history at you and I felt like they were moving a little too quickly. However the key players are all introduced in a much more detailed way and I think you won't have much trouble following it after the first few minutes.

There's something adorable about getting to see a very young Tim Burton. It's so telling that the first video we see of him is this very bored, slightly anti-social looking guy sitting in a dazed stupor at his desk. He's also shown smiling, so apparently the job wasn't all misery all the time for him. We also hear the voice of John Lasseter and see and hear a brief story of Don Bluth's time with the company.

I think the doc does a good job of expressing the emotional journey of the animators during this tumultuous time. You feel bad for them when their early movies flounder, and you rejoice when they start to reach success. Even if you're not a big Disney fan, I think following this journey is enough to make the film enjoyable.

As a Disney fan, it's incredible to get this very honest look behind the scenes. I gasped in horror when I heard that Jeffrey Katzenberg originally demanded that "Part of Your World" be removed from The Little Mermaid. It was also wonderful to see the moment where Howard Ashman was guiding Jodi Benson on exactly how to sing it. There are tons of these kind of behind the scene moments scattered throughout the film.

One of the things that kind of surprised me was when they said that Oliver & Company outsold The Land Before Time. I really loved Oliver as a kid (I'll admit I haven't seen it since) but I remember the latter being the much bigger deal. Merchandise everywhere and now it has so many straight to DVD sequels it's really not funny. Meanwhile Disney released Oliver & Company to DVD with hardly any announcement at all. I really need to get my hands on a copy and see how well it does (or doesn't) hold up.

I definitely think this documentary is worth a rent for anyone with an interest in animation.

EDIT: I watched Oliver & Company in 2013.  It's amazingly mediocre.  I recommend just watching a video of the Billy Joel song instead.


  1. +JMJ+

    It sounds like a cool documentary for the "Disney Babies" of the 90s.

    As for Oliver & Company vs. The Land before Time . . . I didn't even see the former. But my brothers had the former and all its sequels on VCD when they were little. I picked up some of the new songs, too. You should hear me rock out "Big, big, big, big WATER!" ;-)

  2. Ha! I loved The Land Before Time as a kid. Me and my brother had the hand puppets you could get at Pizza Hut, and I remember repeating the "I flied? I flied?" "Nope, you falled." exchange between Petrie and Ducky all the time because I thought it was soooo funny back then.

    I tried watching it again via Netflix Streaming some time last year and got bored before it even got to that scene. I guess that means I'll never get around to the sequels.. ;)

  3. +JMJ+

    I had those puppets, too! I had two Ceras, one Little Foot, one Ducky and one Spike. I kept trying to find someone who would trade his Petrie for my extra Cera; but not surprisingly, Petrie was always more popular! =P

    And I was just telling someone that I wish I hadn't lost those old toys, because they were of really good quality--and I'm sure my brothers would still be playing with them now. (Compare that to the awful crap we get in McDonalds--or any fast food place, really--these days. My grandmother bought six commemorative World Cup glasses from McDonalds last year . . . and they're all gone now. Just smashed.)

    I haven't tried rewatching Land before Time in a while. I suppose my safest bet is to make sure I have really young kids with me? LOL!

  4. I think we had everyone but Petrie too! That's funny. Looking at the results on ebay, it does look like they've held up really well.

    I still have the glasses that McDonald's sold for Batman Forever.. shame they're not keeping up with their quality. How expensive can glasses be to make?

  5. +JMJ+

    Not expensive if they're made in China . . . but there's the irony right there, aye? =P

  6. I want to see this even more than I did before now.

    re: The Land Before Time...I made the hugest mistake ever and rented that the same weekend as Bambi. It was a bad weekend for animated mommies and my parents should have bought stock in Kleenex, because every time Little Foot looked at that "Tree Star" I'd start bawling all over again.

  7. That would be a very bad weekend!

    Bambi is one of the first movies I remember that didn't live up to the hype. My grandma went on and on about how sad it was and how both my aunts had bawled when Bambi's mom died. My brother and I sat down to watch it.. he fell asleep, and I said "This is boring, I don't want to watch it anymore." I've come to appreciate it a little more as I got older though. :)

    By the way, those two other docs I was telling you about are "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story" and "Walt and El Grupo"


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